Przemysl, Poland

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Przemyśl (pronounce: Missing image

'pʃεmiɕl, Ukrainian: Перемишль) is a town in south-eastern Poland with 68,900 inhabitants (1995). Since 1999 it is situated in the Subcarpathian Voivodship, previously the town was the capital of Przemyśl Voivodship.

Przemyśl owes its long and rich history to the advantages of its geographic location. The city is the key to the Przemyśl Gate, an area connecting mountainous and lowland regions, with easy communication and fertile soil. It also lies on the navigable San river. Important trade routes passed through Przemyśl and ensured the city's importance.


History of Przemysl

The city of Przemyśl appears to have been founded as early as the 8th century. One explanation, possibly legendary, was that the city was founded by a Duke from what would become central Poland, named Przemysł. The area afterwards became a part of the Great Moravian state. Archeological remains testify to the presence of the monastic settlement as early as the 9th century. Upon the invasion of the Hungarian tribes into the heart of the Great Moravian Empire around 899, the White Croats of the area declared their allegiance to Kiev, capital of Kievan Rus. The Przemyśl area then became a site of contention between Poland, Kievan Rus and Hungary at least since the 9th century. The oldest widely-acceped historical mention of Przemyśl comes from 981 and concerns this rivalry.

Between 11th and 12th century the city was a capital of Red Ruthenia, one of the Ruthenian principalities. It became part of the Polish kingdom in the second half of the 13th century. Around this time it obtained Magdeburg law city rights, confirmed in 1389 by king Władysław Jagiełło.

The city prospered as an important trade centre during the Renaissance period. Similarily to the nearby Lwów, the city's population consisted of a great number of nationalities, including Poles, Ruthenians, Jews, Germans, Czechs and Armenians. The prosperity came to an end in the middle of the 17th century, due to wartime destruction during the Deluge and general decline of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at this time. This decline lasted for over a hundred years and only at the end of the 18th century the city's population recovered former levels.

In 1772, as a consequence of the First Partition of Poland, Przemyśl became part of the Austrian empire, in what the Austrians called the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. In 1861 railway connections from Przemyśl to Kraków and Lwów were built. In the middle of the 19th century, due to the growing conflict between Austria and Russia over the Balkans, the strategic location of Przemyśl near the border with the Russian empire was recognised by Austria. During the Crimean War, when tensions between Russia and Austria were high, the city was turned into a fortified camp, surrounded by a ring of forts 15 km in circumference, containing 30 modern fortification works.

However, with the technological progress in artillery during the second half of the 19th century, these fortifications rapidly became obsolete. The longer range of rifled artillery necessitated the construction of larger fortresses with forts designed to resist the newly available guns. To achieve this, between the years 1888 and 1914 Przemyśl was turned into a 1st class fortress, the third largest in Europe out of about 200 that were built in this period. Around the city, in a circle of circumference 45 km, 44 forts of various sizes were built. The older fortifications were modernised to provide the fortress with an internal defence ring. The fortress was designed to accommodate 85 000 soldiers and 956 cannons of all sorts.

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Train station

In August 1914 at the start of the First World War, the Russian armies defeated the Austro-Hungarian army in the opening engagements and advanced rapidly into Galicia. The Przemyśl fortress fulfilled its mission very effectively, helping to stop a 300 000 men strong Russian army advancing towards the Carpathian Passes, as well as Kraków and Silesia. The first siege was lifted by a temporary Austro-Hungarian advance. However, the Russian army pushed forward again and initiated a second siege of Przemyśl fortress in October, 1914. This time relief attempts were unsuccessful. Due to lack of food and exhaustion of its defenders, the fortress surrendered on March 22 1915. The Russians captured 126,000 prisoners and 700 big guns. Before surrendering, a complete destruction of all fortifications was carried out. The Russians did not stay in Przemyśl long. A renewed offensive of the Central Powers recaptured the destroyed fortress on June 3 1915. During the fighting around Przemyśl, both sides lost up to 115,000 killed, wounded and missing.

At the end of World War I Przemyśl became disputed between the re-nascent Poland and the Western Ukrainian Republic. On November 1, 1918, a local provisional government was formed of representatives of Polish, Jewish and Ukrainian inhabitants of the area. However, on November 3 the Ukrainian forces overthrown the government, arrested its leader and captured the eastern part of the city. The Ukrainian army was successfully opposed by a small Polish self-defence unit formed of World War I veterans and Orlęta, young volunteers from Przemyśl high schools. The town was divided by a front line, with the western borough of Zasanie in Polish hands. Since neither side could cross the San River, both opposing forces awaited relief from the outside. The volunteer expeditionary unit formed in Kraków arrived to Przemyśl on November 10, before the Ukrainian forces received reinforcements. Since the Polish ultimatum to the Ukrainians remained unanswered, on November 11 and November 12 the Polish forces crossed the San and pushed the Ukrainian army out in what became known as the Battle of Przemyśl.

Population of Przemyśl, 1931

Roman Catholics 39 430 (63,3%)
Jews 18 376 (29,5%)
Greek Catholics 4 391 (7,0%)
Other denominations 85 (0,2%)
Total 62 272

Source: 1931 Polish census

After the Polish-Bolshevik War the town became a part of newly independent Poland. Although the capital of the voivodship was located in Lwów, Przemyśl recovered its nodal position as a seat of local church administration, as well as the garrison of the 10th Corps of the Polish Army - a staff unit entitled with organising the defence of roughly 10% of Poland. As of 1931 the town had a population of 62 272.

After the invasion of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union, the border between these two occupiers run through the middle of the city along the San river until June, 1941. The town's population increased significantly due to large influx of Jewish reffugees trying to cross the border with the Soviet Union. It is estimated that by mid-1941 the Jewish population of the city grew to roughly 16,500. After the outbreak of Nazi-Soviet War in 1941 the eastern part of the town was captured by Germany. On June 20, 1942 the first group of 1000 Jews were transported from the area of Przemyśl to Janów concentration camp and on July 15 a ghetto was created for all Jewish inhabitants of the area of Przemyśl - some 22 000 people altogether.

The ghetto was closed soon afterwards and the following month the extermination of Jews started. Until September 1943 almost all Jews were sent to Auschwitz and Bełżec. The local branches of the Polish underground and the Żegota managed to save 415 people of Jewish descent. According to a post-war query at the German archives 568 Poles were murdered by the Germans for helping the Jews of the area of Przemyśl.

The town was captured by the Red Army on July 27, 1944. In the post-war territorial settlement, the new border between Poland and the Soviet Union placed Przemyśl in Poland, but just barely. The border now ran only a few kilometers to the east of the city, cutting it off from much of its economic hinterland. Furthermore, due to the murder of Jews in the Nazi Holocaust and the post-war explusion of Ukrainians, the city's population (now overwhelmingly Polish) dropped to merely 24 000. However, the city welcomed thousands of Polish refugees from Eastern Galicia. Their number helped regain pre-war population of the city.

As a result of all these disasters the growth of the city in the years after 1945 was stunted. Only after 1991, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the independence of Ukraine and progress in opening the Polish-Ukrainian border, did the city's prospects improve.


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Royal castle in Przemyśl
  • Wyższa Szkoła Administracji i Zarządzania
    • Wydział zamiejscowy w Rzeszowie
  • Wyższa Szkoła Gospodarcza
  • Wyższa Szkoła Informatyki i Zarządzania
  • Nauczycielskie Kolegium Języków Obcych
  • Nauczycielskie Kolegium Języka Polskiego


Missing image
Ruins of the castle

Krosno/Przemysl constituency

Members of Sejm elected from Krosno/Przemyśl constituency

  • Wojciech Domaradzki, SLD-UP
  • Witold Firak, SLD-UP
  • Józef Głowa, Samoobrona
  • Tadeusz Kaleniecki, SLD-UP
  • Mieczysław Kasprzak, PSL
  • Marian Kawa, SLD-UP
  • Ryszard Kędra, LPR
  • Marek Kuchciński, PiS
  • Alicja Lis, Samoobrona
  • Elżbieta Łukacijewska, PO
  • Adam Woś, PSL

External links:

lv:Pšemisla pl:Przemyśl


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